February 7, 2013

0500 ERITREA - A Kunama woman from Barentu

Located in the Horn of Africa, Eritrea exists as independent state, in its present form, since 1993, when it separated from Ethiopia, after a 30-year war. It’s a multi-ethnic country, with nine recognized ethnic groups, of which the most numerous are Tigrinya (55%) and Tigre (30%). The fourth in terms of the population is Kunama, but with only 2%, that means about 225,000 inhabitants (are also 21.000 in Sudan and 5,400 in Ethiopia). Most of them live in the isolated area between the Gash and Setit rivers (the "breadbasket of Eritrea"), near the border with Ethiopia.

The Kunama have a very dark skin, speak a Nilo-Saharan language unrelated to the dominant languages in Eritrea and Ethiopia, and are believed to have been the pre-historic inhabitants of this region. Some are Christian, some Muslim, but many follow their own faith, centred around worship of the creator, Anna, and veneration of ancestral heroes. Formerly nomadic, today they are farmers and pastoralists. Other ethnic groups, however, have invaded the land the Kunama traditionally possessed. They were one of the Eritrea’s largest nationalities until the late 1800s, when repeated assaults and slave-raiding by Tigrayan warlords sharply reduced their population and impoverished the society. After 1993, the policy of the government of Eritrea is that all land is state property and the government encourages large farms, most of which are owned by the same dominant Tigrinya group, so Kunama are subject today, as in the past, to discriminations, some sources speaking even of genocide.

The Kunama are organized along matrilineal clan social organisation. There are more clans, limited only in certain areas, which have certain important social and political roles. For example some clans are responsible for bringing rain, others are entrusted the role or warding off locusts and insects and so on. A council of elders who know the customary laws administer the society democratically. As a result, no inequality in power relations developed among the different segment of the community. Barentu is the capital of the Gash-Barka region and home of the Nara and Kunama tribe. Even if it suffered major damage during the Eritrean-Ethiopian War, and its climate is semi-desert, it is one of the fastest growing cities in the country.

About the stamp, I don’t know anything.

Eritrea - Wikipedia
Kunama People - Wikipedia 
Political and Cultural History of the Kunama People, by Dr. Alexander Naty - Dekebat Eritra

sender: Iparrot
sent from Asmara (Eritrea), on 17.01.2013

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